Arambol Panchayat has taken the laudable initiative to have a Village Level Disaster Response Plan . Rather than claiming to be the first panchayat in India to have such a plan, the team in the panchayat which took steps to make this a reality should get down to serious work, utilizing the training they got and sustaining the enthusiasm of the volunteers involved.
The claim about being the first to have a disaster management programme must be taken with a pinch of salt: There are people in Goa who have trained panchayats in other States like Orissa in Disaster Management, right down to the level of ward level committees and volunteer units. In Goa itself, the training was initiated by the Collector of North Goa in Calangute. It is another thing that they are yet to put the complete set up in place.
Immediately before the Tsunami of the recent past, the Collector of Nagapattinam district, Tamil Nadu had organized such a training and the villages were able to respond to the tragedy in a much more organized way than others similarly affected. Orissa had been conducting Disaster Management training for the community ever since a massive cyclone devastated life along the coastal districts of that State ten years ago.
At the corporate level, perhaps the only well publicised drill held regularly to sensitize the community about a possible mishap is at Corilm where the Syngenta plant holds its regular mock emergency evacuation drills . It has helped people not to panic, and to become familiar with an orderly response to any possible crisis. That is as it should be. Such an exercise was never done for the people alongside the pipeline from Mormugao port to Dabolim till naphtha leaked in August 2011 caused a conflagration which lasted for days.
The State government is reportedly finalizing its disaster management strategy .We therefore expect that such plans will be exhaustive enough to concurrently train all the panchayat and municipal bodies and the community in general on orderly response as well as level- headed preparedness for disaster situations.
Arambol, like the entire west coast of Goa, can be potential victim of tsunami, cyclone and massive soil erosion. But being a hotspot of tourism activity, it is also a sitting duck for terrorists strike, especially in Arambol- Vagator area, a favorite haunt for Israelis. What are the people expected to do in such an exigency? There is no logic is arguing that since terrorists and drug mafia are hand in glove, they would not like to upset their drug outlets at such venues, which would adversely affect their own business and therefore nothing of the sort would happen. There’s always the odd man who can upset the applecart.
The disaster management plan lists important phone numbers, emergency services contacts. Inputs on how to use the local resources in cases of catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence arising from natural or manmade causes need to be made available to the public. But history shows that at times of crisis these emergency numbers either do not work or are busy and therefore inaccessible to victims.
In any case, the government cannot afford to sit pretty with the claim of Arambol being the first village in India to have such a plan in place. What about the entire State itself? There is no evacuation system in place in the event of a nuclear mishap at Kaiga. Repertedly, there is an off-site emergency plan for each district, which details action to be taken by various authorities in case of oil tankers or other hazardous material vehicles meet with an accident during transit. But nothing seems to be done to educate the public on how to respond to such an accident in their vicinity. Such a mishap did occur at Cortalim several years ago where a truck overturned giving out over a thousand litres of liquefied chlorine. The Assonora river too was polluted by such a tanker mishap. Along the National Highway 17, between Margao and Pollem, such accidents are too frequent for comfort. The risk people along the highways face in their sleep in the event of a gas leak is considerable. Government should at least set up Fire Stations along the highway to summarily tackle any such emergency.
There is an urgent need to ensure that the community level preparedness and response training is given across the State.. Else, such pompous announcements will remain just claims . Nothing more.